February 2012

« January 2012 | Main | March 2012 »


RotoAuthority Mock Draft

The RotoAuthority writers and a few of our loyal readers are mocking tonight, beginning at 8CT/9ET, at MockDraftCentral.com.

We'll have analysis in the coming days, but in the meanwhile, please feel free to follow along. You'll need an account (free) to view the draft, which will launch 20 minutes prior to the first selection.


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories:

RotoAuthority Live Chat

Click below to read a transcript of tonight's live chat with Steve Adams.



2012 Position Rankings: Outfield

Update: The rankings have been changed to reflect Ryan Braun's successful appeal of his 50-game suspension.

It's time to move out of the infield and into the outfield, where we'll find fantasy's most diverse group of players. As always, these rankings are based on 12-team mixed leagues with traditional 5x5 scoring.

  1. Matt Kemp, LAD - While I doubt Kemp will be able to make good on his promise of going 50-50 this year, the new $160MM man is the best all-around player in fantasy baseball. He might not hit .324 again, but 30-30 with 100+ RBI and 100+ runs scored feels like the floor here. He missed 40-40 by one homer in 2011, don't be surprised if he gets it in 2012.
  2. Ryan Braun, MIL - Now that we know Braun will be in play for the first 50 games of the season, he steps in as the clear number two behind Kemp. Expect MVP caliber numbers again. (Formerly #11)
  3. Justin Upton, ARI - Still six months shy of his 25th birthday, Upton is just scratching the surface of his potential. He cut down on his strikeouts drastically last year, and has a chance to turn that 30-20 effort into 35-25 this summer.
  4. Jose Bautista, TOR - It's tough to expect anyone to hit 40 HR these days, but if I was going to put money on someone, it would be Bautista. He does everything but steal bases.
  5. Carlos Gonzalez, COL - CarGo missed more than three weeks with a wrist problem last season, but he was on a 30 HR, 25 SB pace and nearly drove in 100 runs anyway. Now he's healthy.
  6. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS - We're going to have to see if that 30+ HR power he showed last year is here to stay, but Ellsbury is still tremendously valuable if he only goes deep 20 times because of his stolen base ability.
  7. Curtis Granderson, NYY - He might not hit 40+ HR again, but Granderson's power isn't just a product of cozy Yankee Stadium: he hit 21 HR at home and 20 on the road last year.
  8. Andrew McCutchen, PIT - McCutchen hit more fly balls than ever before last season, which is why his average (and BABIP) dropped 30 points. You'll get 20-20 production and hopefully a rebound in batting average.
  9. Mike Stanton, FLA - If HR distance was a category, he'd be the first overall pick. Stanton has massive power and run production potential, but he won't hit for average or steal many bases.
  10. Josh Hamilton, TEX - The production is elite ... when he's actually on the field. Hamilton has played in 135 games just once in his five years, and that came back in 2008.
  11. Hunter Pence, HOU - Hopefully Pence gets back to stealing 15+ bases again, but otherwise he's a better than average contributor in the other four categories.
  12. Alex Gordon, KC - Last year's breakout was long-awaited, and Gordon has the potential to do even more next season (think .300/20/100/100/20).
  13. Matt Holliday, STL - Holliday will be asked to do more following the departure of Albert Pujols, and some good health will get him back into .300/25/100/100 territory.
  14. Jay Bruce, CIN - Bruce might not hit for much average or steal many bases, but he's about to become a perennial 30/100/100 fantasy player.
  15. Ben Zobrist, TB - Zobrist doesn't hit for much average but he helps everywhere else. His production is more useful at second base, however.
  16. Shin-Soo Choo, CLE - One of fantasy' biggest disappointments last year, an obligue strain kept Choo from his usual .300 average and 20-20 production. I expect a big rebound.
  17. Michael Bourn, ATL - It's all about stolen bases (think 50+), batting average (.280+), and runs (90+) here, not power (maybe five if you're lucky) or RBI (maybe 50).
  18. Lance Berkman, STL - We got to see vintage Puma one last time last year, and I wouldn't expect another .300/30/100/100 season. That said, he'll still be really productive at an easier position.
  19. Mike Morse, WAS - There will continue to be doubters, but Morse is going on nearly 900 plate appearances of elite production and is right in his prime. He'll do just about everything but steal bases.
  20. Nelson Cruz, TEX - Cruz is a lesser version of Hamilton, meaning he produces when he's on the field, which isn't often enough (hasn't topped 130 games since 2008).
  21. Adam Jones, BAL - Jones is entering his prime years and could push 30 HR in the obscurity of Baltimore. There's plenty of breakout potential here.
  22. Shane Victorino, PHI - The Flyin' Hawaiian missed time with thumb and hamstring problems last year, but he should get back over 30 steals and push 20 dingers with good health.
  23. B.J. Upton, TB - You can pencil the elder Upton in for 30+ steals right now, and he should offer 20+ HR power to go along with a middling batting average and okay run production numbers.
  24. Corey Hart, MIL - An obligue strain prevented Hart from topping 30 HR for the second straight year, but he's a .280/30/100/100 candidate when right. That's seriously valuable.
  25. Desmond Jennings, TB - Be careful not to overrate him based on his hot start last year, but Jennings has legitimate 20-40 potential and should score a ton of runs atop Tampa's lineup.
  26. Carlos Beltran, STL - He's not going to steal 20+ bases again, but Beltran provides big value if he can stay on the field. He did play 140+ games for the first time in three years in 2012, but still managed one DL trip.
  27. Nick Swisher, NYY - Swisher is a consistent 20+ HR, 80+ RBI, 80+ runs guy that could do more in a stack lineup and friendly ballpark. Plus it's a contract year.
  28. Brett Gardner, NYY - It's a shame they don't count UZR in fantasy, though the 40+ steals and 90+ runs will have to suffice. Gardner could slap his way to .280+, but hasn't yet.
  29. Jayson Werth, WAS - Werth's disappointing first year in Washington was nearly his third 20-20 season in the last four years. His batted ball profile and BABIP doesn't jive, so expect something better than .232 in 2012.
  30. Drew Stubbs, CIN - Stubbs does everything but make consistent contact, so he'll never provide much average. Twenty homers and 30+ steals sure sounds good though.
  31. Chris Young, ARI - The 30-30 candidate barely cracked 20-20 last season, and his average dipped into the low-.200s to boot. I think a step forward is more likely than another step back for the 28-year-old.
  32. Cameron Maybin, SD - Petco Park won't help him any, but Maybin is a 40+ steal guy and can pop double-digit homers with a decent average going forward.
  33. Matt Joyce, RF - A hot start and a slow finished averaged out to a fine season, and Joyce could turn into a 20-15 player in 2012 as he takes another step forward.
  34. Carl Crawford, BOS - Crawford was so bad last year tha he can't help but be better in 2012, right? He's going to miss the first few weeks with a wrist problem, but I have to think the .300/15/40 guy is still in there.
  35. Logan Morrison, FLA - LoMo's undeserved demotion likely cost him a shot at 30 HR last season, but he'll get the chance to play all year under Ozzie Guillen and has serious breakout potential.
  36. Nick Markakis, BAL - Unlike his teammate Jones, Markakis has completely plateaued in recent years and now is a .280/15/70/70/10 type. Solid, but not what we expected a few years ago.
  37. Jason Heyward, ATL - A shoulder problem had Heyward all fouled up last year, though he's still an extreme ground ball hitter than needs to get the ball in the air if he wants to hit for more power.
  38. Josh Willingham, MIN -Moving to Target Field won't hurt Willingham's numbers much coming from Oakland, assuming he stays on the field. He could push 30 HR if he avoids the DL for the first time in three years.
  39. Howie Kendrick, LAA - Kendrick spent enough time in left last year to qualify as an outfielder, though his .280+ average and 15-15 production is more valuable at second base.
  40. Michael Cuddyer, COL - Moving from Target Field to Coors Field will help his numbers, but I wouldn't expect a return to the 30 HR level. Cuddyer's a solid producer, nothing more.
  41. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA - Ichiro is showing all the tell-tale signs of age-related decline, namely struggling to hit the ball in the air consistently. He'll still swipe a ton of bases, but don't count on those elite batting averages coming back.
  42. Carlos Lee, HOU - Lee saw his batting average rebound last year, though his power has been in a steady decline and only figures to get worse. His teammates won't help him in the run production categories either.
  43. Peter Bourjos, LAA - Bourjos has shown surprising pop so far in the big leagues, and the speed is there for him to steal 30+ bases. There's some sneaky high upside here.
  44. Austin Jackson, DET - A big spike in fly balls resulted in a 56-point BABIP drop but also 2.5 times as many homers as he'd hit the year before. Jackson could steal 30 bases, but he strikes out too much to hit for average.
  45. Melky Cabrera, SF - The Melkman delivered the best season of his career in 2011, and was rewarded with a trade to one of the game's worst hitter's parks. Don't count on him repeating 2011, he won't in AT&T Park.
  46. Coco Crisp, OAK - Crisp's stolen base totals have increased with age, and he's still young enough (32) to have at least one more 40 steal season in those legs.
  47. Torii Hunter, LAA - Hunter's production is starting to wane with age, but having Pujols in the lineup should boost his run production numbers. Don't be surprised if he fails to crack 20 HR for the first time in seven years.
  48. Andre Ethier, LAD - Ethier's power disappeared last year, though his knee trouble is at least partially to blame. He could have a big contract year in him, but I'll settle for his old .290/20/90 production.
  49. Brennan Boesch, DET - One of my breakout picks, Boesch had a shot at 25 HR last year if thumb problem didn't end his season in late-August. Now he'll be batting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
  50. Angel Pagan, SF - I'd count on Pagan for nothing but steals, and he should give you 35+ if he stays healthy. His ballpark will limit his power production, and there's not enough of a BABIP correction coming to get excited.
  51. Martin Prado, ATL - Prado should see a BABIP rebound next year since his batted ball profile didn't change much from 2010-2011, but he's not going to hit for average or steal bases.
  52. Emilio Bonifacio, FLA - Appearing in our rankings at his third different position, Bonifacio's story hasn't changed: he'll steal a ton of bases but won't hit for any power, and there are reasons to expect his average to come back to Earth.
  53. Carlos Quentin, SD - Quentin has the kind of right-handed power needed to conquer Petco, but health remains the real issue. He always leaves you wanting more.
  54. Colby Rasmus, TOR - A wrist problem sabotaged his first half-season in Toronto, but Rasmus has 20-20 potential and could score a ton of runs if he bats ahead of Bautista in the lineup.
  55. Lucas Duda, NYM - One of fantasy's better sleeper candidates, Duda has serious left-handed pop and should push 20 HR and 80 RBI with regular playing time.
  56. Dexter Fowler, COL - After stealing 27 bases in 2009, Fowler has stolen just 25 bases since. He has to get back to being that guy, otherwise he offers very little beyond runs scored.
  57. Jeff Francoeur, KC - Frenchy was the game's most unheralded 20-20 player last year, but the track record of mediocrity is so long that I can't be anything but skeptical going forward.
  58. Delmon Young, MIN - Cut from the same cloth as Francoeur, Young was fantastic with the Tigers but won't be hitting in front of Cabrera now. Lineup protection is general overstated, but not in the case of elite hitters.
  59. Mike Trout, LAA - The talent is world class, but will the Angels find enough playing time for Trout this year? If so, he could swipe 30 bags and offer a whole lot more.
  60. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK - Your guess is as good as mine. Everything indicates 25+ HR potential, but it's been a long time since he's faced live pitching and he's never faced MLB caliber pitching before. Roster him at your own risk.

Honorable Mention: Ben Revere, MIN; Nyjer Morgan, MIL; Alfonso Soriano, CHC; Jose Tabata, PIT; Rajai Davis, TOR; Brandon Belt, SF; Seth Smith, OAK; Chris Heisey, CIN; John Mayberry Jr., PHI; Jason Bay, NYM

Other Positions: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Shortstop, Third Base


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Outfielders

If You Like Mark Teixeira, Try Paul Goldschmidt

Earlier this month, RotoAuthority's Tom Warman talked about Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira as an overrated hitter in fantasy baseball.  At a 27.47 average draft position on Mock Draft Central, Tex is going in the third round, before Edwin Van Bibber-Orr favorite Matt Holliday as well as a slew of staff-anchoring starting pitchers.

Heading into the 2010 season, Teixeira seemed a lock for a .300 AVG, 35+ HR, 120 RBI, and 100 R.  But over the 2010-11 seasons, Teixeira hit .252 over 1396 plate appearances.   Last season, in particular, he failed to hit .265 in any month.  Baseball HQ suggests this is an opportunity, as they project a .278 average for him in 2012.  Averaging the results of HQ and three other projection systems, we get a composite line of .268-33-104-92-2 for Teixeira if he has 585 ABs.  While it's true Tex has generally been good for more like 35 HR, 110 RBI, and 100 R, the composite projection still contains areas of optimism, as it assumes a tolerable AVG and yet another 155 game season.  If you like the composite projection, Tex looks like a $19-20 player in a 12-team mixed league.

Then we have Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, for whom I'm testing a quite optimistic 540 AB projection.  Playing time is a concern with Goldschmidt, as the team re-signed Lyle Overbay to a Major League contract.  Overbay came to Arizona last season on August 13th and made ten starts at first base.  As a left-handed hitter, all of Overbay's starts came against righty pitchers, including less-intimidating ones such as Livan Hernandez, Aaron Cook, and Ross Ohlendorf.  Goldschmidt, a left-handed hitter, was platooned in this way even though he raked against righties and struggled against lefties in a small 43 plate appearance MLB sample.

D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that Goldschmidt hits lefties plenty; he slugged .871 against them in Double-A prior to his call-up.  You have to be worried, though, that Overbay will take 30 first base starts in 2012 against righties.  That'd leave 132 for Goldschmidt, plus the D'Backs will have a DH for nine interleague games.  If Goldschmidt plays 140 games at 3.5 at-bats per, we're looking at just 490.  So, yes, Overbay presents a big obstacle, one reason you can draft Goldschmidt in the 13th round.  It's not even easy to predict when Overbay will start, since most pitchers are right-handed.

Another factor hurting Goldschmidt's value is that he has just 177 career plate appearances above Double-A.  We've seen better-regarded young players completely bomb following similar promising two-month debuts.  Then there's his batting average, which most expect to remain below .260 given a healthy strikeout rate.

All that said, Overbay is not a good hitter.  Against righties the last three years, he's hitting .231/.314/.364 in over 300 plate appearances.  Is that the reason you're going to pass on Goldschmidt?  Maybe Goldie's debut overstates him, and he's not the 30 HR, 90 RBI first baseman he appears to be.  But it seems even more likely that Overbay is not the .286/.388/.452 hitter he was in 49 D'Backs plate appearances, even if it earned him a roster spot for 2012.

My point in drawing the Teixeira-Goldschmidt comparison is not that they are equally safe bets at first base in 2012 --  far from it.  It's that if Goldschmidt does somehow find 540 ABs, he's a $15 player, and not all that far below Tex.  You'll notice that Goldschmidt ran a little bit in 2011, with 13 steals including Double-A.  Five added steals closes some of the value gap with Tex, who is likely to provide better power counting stats.  Goldschmidt is going 12th among first basemen, and if you can handle a batting average hit, he's a fine addition for your CI slot.


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: If You Like...

I'll See Your Ship and Raise You a Moth

In late August of 2011, a moth flew into Matt Holliday's ear during a game against the Dodgers. Cardinals trainers escorted Holliday off the field and into a dark room, hoping that the moth would seek light and exit the premises. The moth, likely considerably more uncomfortable than Holliday, couldn't budge, and the trainers finally extracted the moth with tweezers. Carefully. 

Impressively, they were able to remove the moth without killing it. Holliday kept the moth, sort of like a reverse ship in a bottle. Only alive. 

This winter, I've read pundits claiming that Holliday is in a "none too slow" decline, citing that he stole just two bases last year and only managed 22 HR. For your sake and mine, let us hope these pundits continue to push Holliday down draft boards in 2012. 

He only appeared in 122 games in 2011. Things began bizzarely for Holliday, with an appendectomy costing him the first nine days of April. In May, Holliday sustained a quadriceps injury, which the Cardinals tried to be aggressive with. Holliday went on the DL in the beginning of June for two weeks.

In August, the moth, and then Holliday rounded out the year by spraining a finger in the middle of September, missing the season's final two weeks. 

Does this rich array of bizarre injuries portend Holliday's decline?

I say, frankly, no. Holliday is not Paul Konerko; he's just turning 32. In a keeper league, yes, his stock is falling. But in a redraft league, Holliday is still in his prime and warrants your attention in 2012. In Holliday's first few seasons in Colorado, his stolen base totals were in the low teens (14, 10, 11 in 2005-07). Only in 2008 did his SB total jump to 28. In 2009, it was back to 14; in 2010, 9. Given the problems first with his core and then his quadricep, it is understandable that Holliday did not go hogwild on the basepaths in 2011. He stole a base in each of the season's final two months, and in 2012, Holliday can be counted on for 5-10 SB, in line with his career totals. 

As for the considerably more salient issue, Holliday's bat, everything was just fine in 2011. Despite playing through a host of maladies, Holliday posted his highest HR/FB% and ISO since 2007. All of his other peripherals matched career norms. Sure, Albert Pujols is gone, but Holliday hit behind Pujols all of last year. In 2012, Holliday will almost certainly hit third, boosting his counting stats. If Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman can remain healthy, Holliday is in line for a monster year. None of the injuries Holliday sustained were chronic in nature. He is 100% healthy, whooping up on David Freese in squash.

As offensive production declines across the board, what better bets are there than Holliday to post a .300/25/100/100/5 season? Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, and that's about it. Holliday will give you Votto-like production at a position that is arguably thinner than 1B in a 5 OF league. With an ADP of 37.99 at MDC, Holliday is falling to the fourth round in 12-team drafts. Target him in the third round and be thankful. I know I hope he falls to me in RotoAuthority.com's mock draft on Thursday. Listen, don't hate on the lepidopterist. Nabokov had his butterflies; Holliday has his moths.


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories:

2012 RotoAuthority League

March is nearly upon us, and a date has been set for the 2012 RotoAuthority League.  The draft will take place Tuesday, March 20th at 8pm central time with Yahoo.  It will take several hours and all participants must be present for the entire time.  The specs of the league follow.

  • $100 buy-in to be paid via LeagueSafe prior to the draft
  • Payout of $900/$200/$100
  • Mixed 5x5 league with AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB for hitters and ERA, WHIP, K, W, SV for pitchers
  • 12 teams, two of which are currently open
  • Positions of C, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, DH, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, P, P, Bench, Bench, Bench
  • Lineups set daily
  • Unlimited transactions, trades approved automatically
  • 162 maximum games played per position, 1500 innings for pitching
  • Bottom four kicked out each year, unless I am in the bottom four.  This happened in 2011 when I finished dead last.  Not my best showing!

As I mentioned, this competitive league has two open spots.  If you are interested in joining, please make your case in the comments section.  You must include your email address.  The thread will close end of day Friday.

If you don't make it into this league, don't despair!  We will be running the RotoAuthority Silver League again, the winner of which automatically joins the main league the following year.


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories:

RotoAuthority Mock Draft: Thursday, 8 CT

The RotoAuthority writers will be conducting a mock draft on Thursday at 8 CT, at MockDraftCentral.com, and you, dear readers, are cordially invited to follow along. We'll laugh (at my picks), I'll cry (also at my picks) and sharpen our skills for next month's official drafts.

As well, we are looking for a few of our loyal readers to round out the mock. If you're interested, please reply in the comments with your email address, or you can email us at RotoMock[at]gmail[dot]com. Here are the draft specs:

  • 12 teams
  • Mixed
  • Classic 5x5 roto
  • 26 rounds
  • 90 seconds between picks
  • 2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 SS, 1 3B, 1 MI, 1 CI, 5 OF, 1 UTIL, 9 P, 3 BE


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories:

Sleepers & Busts: Kyle Farnsworth, Adam Wainwright

Two pitchers. Each has four letters in his first name and 10 letters in his surname. Coincidence? Probably so ... or is it? OK, enough nonsense. Let's get on with the column. As always, I issue the standard disclaimer: The terms "sleeper" and "bust" are relative to average draft position (courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com).

Kyle Farnsworth, CL, Rays
ADP: 224

In the words of Biggie Smalls, things done changed for Kyle Farnsworth. Once a guy who seemed incapable of effectively harnessing his immense raw potential, the right-hander has refined his craft as he's settled into his mid-30s, culminating in last season's unforeseen and surprisingly successful run as the Rays' primary closer.

Considering that Farnsworth owns a long track record of disappointments and late-inning meltdowns, you can hardly hold it against mockers for casting a jaundiced eye (18th round) toward his 25 saves and 2.18 ERA in 2011. But a look beyond the surface stats indicates that K-Farns could in fact again be a late-round bargain on Draft Day as he was a year ago, when Tampa broke camp with a short-lived three-headed closing monster of Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.

It's all there, clear as crystal: You stole Fizzy Lifting Drink Farnsworth is a different pitcher than he was during his frustrating youth. The right-hander has added an extra pitch, a cutter, to his arsenal over the past three years, which has furnished him with the dual benefits of inducing more grounders and preventing hitters from sitting on his old fastball/slider two-pitch mix. He's also significantly reduced his walk rate, down to a solid 2.64 BB/9 in 2010 and then a minuscule 1.87 last season.

Now, there are a couple of concerns that are worth mentioning. First, don't count on a repeat of last year's ridiculously strong ERA, as Farnsworth was exceedingly fortunate in strand rate, at 85%, and BABIP, at .250 (vs. .294 for his career). SIERA liked him for a 2.77 figure last year, which is still excellent, but again: bank on a figure closer to 3.00 than 2.00.

Next, Farnsworth missed time in September due to a tweaked elbow, which is always something worth taking into consideration. He didn't undergo offseason surgery, which is encouraging in that it's safe to assume he mended with simple rest, and the notoriously frugal Rays exercised their club option on him, suggesting they weren't overly concerned. If the club's not worried, I'm not going to get all in a tizzy, either.

Farnsworth is currently the 27th reliever being drafted, even behind the underwhelming Chris Perez and two setup men in Sergio Romo and Francisco Rodriguez. The closer's job is Farnsy's in Tampa, and he's got the stuff to once again provide surplus value relative to what you'll pay for him on Draft Day.

Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
ADP: 104.5 

I hemmed and hawed on listing Adam Wainwright as a "bust" here, because I don't want to root against a guy who's coming off Tommy John surgery. In truth, though, I won't be pulling against Waino; I just happen to think too many mockers are taking an unnecessary risk.

Wainwright, 31 in August, missed the entirety of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John in Spring Training. He'll be a full year removed from the surgery by Opening Day, and though I'm not a doctor, we all know that there's a long list of pitchers who have returned from TJ and regained their old form or something close to it -- some sooner than others.

But what exactly does that mean for Waino in 2012? Will he pick up and be the awesome pitcher that he was in 2009 and 2010? Maybe he'll be effective but not quite as effective. It's not far fetched to think his strikeout rate might dip from 8-plus K/9.  As well, much of his value was tied to his 230-inning workloads in 2009-10, but it's hard to imagine him doing that again coming off major surgery and a year-long layoff. I think the Cards will limit him to something like 160-180 innings. And finally, there could be other kinks to work out. Perhaps there will be a minor setback -- the tearing of scar tissue or some such -- at some point.

You get the idea.

Currently the 29th starter being drafted in mocks (mid-8th round), that places Wainwright right in the middle of the No. 3 starters, which is hardly a throwaway roster spot. Consider some of the starters being drafted after Waino: Brandon Beachy, Yu Darvish, Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum, Max Scherzer and Brandon Morrow, to name a few. These guys bring different skills to the table, and I like them to varying degrees, but depending on who you take as your first and second starters, any of them could be very nice complements.

With pitching as deep as it is, I'd rather focus on filling out my lineup in the eighth round than taking a flier on a guy with health concerns. The long odds of the potential upside being realized just doesn't seem to justify the risk.



Transaction Analysis: Pirates Acquire A.J. Burnett

After what seemed like years of waiting, the Yankees and Pirates finally pulled the trigger on the A.J. Burnett deal. Whether the move makes sense for either team, it is a move that could help your fantasy team, and not just by increasing Burnett's fantasy value.

A.J. Burnett

It isn't often that leaving the Yankees increases your fantasy value, but Burnett was in an unusual situation. A decent pitcher with a bloated contract -- and coming off two straight years of ERAs north of 5.00 -- Burnett was in the mix for the fifth-starter's spot with Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia and not necessarily the front-runner. Even if he'd won the job out of camp, he would have been on such a short leash that he probably wouldn't have been worth a roster spot. While the Yankees will win more games than the Pirates this year, Burnett has a much better chance of netting his own wins with the Bucs.

Wins are hard to come by in Pittsburgh -- Kevin Correia's 12 last season are the most by a Buc in the last three years -- but something in the 9-13 range seems possible given Burnett's durability (four straight years of at least 180 IP) and the potential development of the Pirates' young offensive core. At the least, it should be better than yo-yoing from the rotation to the bullpen.

But wins aren't the reason to draft Burnett; instead it's the change of scenery and competition--and his 8.22 career K/9. Despite Burnett's bad ERAs, his SIERAs have been better at 4.37 and 3.89. It looks like there's a pretty good pitcher in Burnett, just trying to get out, and Pittsburgh may be the place to do it. His otherworldly 17% HR/FB rate in 2011 should regress a bit on its own (his career rate is 11.3%) and the PNC park should do its part to help. While Yankee Stadium boasts a 1.267 park factor for homers, PNC Park's is just 0.799. The park also reduces walks, which Burnett will appreciate.

So, his ERA and WHIP should go down, and his strikeouts ought to remain good (he racked up 173 last year) and may well improve with the chance to face the Astros and Cubs instead of the Red Sox and Blue Jays -- where does that leave us? A pitcher with an ERA in the mid-4.00s, perhaps lower, with wins in the low double-digits and about 170 strikeouts. That won't anchor a staff, by any means, but it's solid production. Burnett's penchant for variance means that he might be quite a bit worse, of course, but it also means he could be better. I mean, he got that monster contract in the first place for a reason, right?

Burnett's ADP is currently sitting at 240.92, with a 6% draft rate. Expect those numbers to go up as his ADP begins to reflect his new situation, but he could still bring a lot of value towards the end of the draft, especially as casual players write him off for all the bad press he got in New York. Don't let your league be one of the 94%.

The Burnett trade isn't good news for the rest of Pittsburgh's rotation, though, as one of Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, or Charlie Morton will probably open the season in the bullpen or the minor leagues. The silver lining to that cloud is that whoever loses his spot should be getting it back as soon as Erik Bedard gets hurt.

Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes

The trade is good news for one of these two pitchers, and early indicators suggest Freddy Garcia is likely to be the beneficiary. He's not the pitcher he was 10 years ago, but a 4.12 FIP and a 2.13 K/BB rate mark him as pretty close to average, and an average-ish pitcher in line for Yankee wins can be useful as a streamer. A word of caution, though: with the 41.3 FB% he posted last year, a small change in his ability to keep the ball in the park could mean a big drop in his value. Expect the leash to be short on Garcia if Hughes is waiting in the bullpen, but there are a lot of worse options for the last couple rounds of the draft.

Phil Hughes may still have a chance to beat out Garcia for the fifth starter's job, and Ivan Nova could always fall on his face and let both in. The great first half Hughes had (and the prospect-promise he'd showed before that) will keep him from being written off for years to come, but Hughes has been flat-out horrible for the last year and a half. If the Yankees give him a chance, it might be wishful thinking, but it might be that they can see that his old magic has returned. If the Yanks sound confident in him at the end of Spring Training, Hughes might be worth a flier. If he makes it into the rotation as an injury or performance replacement, I'd stay away.

 



Position/Role Battles: The Angels' Designated Hitter

The Angels find themselves in a position common to fantasy owners --- too much talent stockpiled at one position. Were the Halos a fantasy team, no doubt they'd be pestering you to acquire one of Bobby Abreu, Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales for your utility or corner infield spot in exchange for an outfielder.  (In real life, of course, Vernon Wells can't be so easily or cheaply released.)

A positional logjam is a small price to pay when it is caused by the addition of a superstar like Albert Pujols. It's very possible the Angels could still swing a trade to move at least one of their DH candidates; just within the last week, an Abreu-for-A.J. Burnett deal was floated with the Yankees, though Burnett rejected the deal since the Angels and other West Coast teams are on his no-trade list. If a trade doesn't happen, however, let's see how Abreu, Trumbo and Morales might all fit into the Los Angeles lineup ...

Abreu: It may be tough for Abreu to reach Cooperstown, but he is a charter member of the Underrated Fantasy Player Hall Of Fame. Abreu has averaged 102 runs scored, 101 walks, 20 homers and 28 steals per season over the past 13 years, and yet always seems to be available about a round lower than you'd expect. After years of consistency, however, Abreu has finally started to slip, batting .255/.352/.435 in 2010 and dropping to a .253/.353/.365 line last season.  Abreu turns 38 in March and is simply no longer a viable everyday option, as his numbers against left-handed pitching have especially slipped in recent years.

This didn't stop LAA from playing Abreu enough for him to unlock a vesting option in his contract, extending his deal through 2012 and guaranteeing him a $9MM salary. At that price, it's going to be hard for the Halos to unload Abreu in a deal, especially with so many other DH types like Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, etc. still on the free agent market and available at a much lower price.  Swapping Abreu for another bad contract (i.e. Burnett) might be the only way the Angels would make a trade work.

If Abreu does remain an Angel, however, his days of 600-plus plate appearances are over.  Expect him to be used much more sparingly, more or less exclusively against right-handed pitching. Fantasy-wise, I'm not sure Abreu holds much value, even as a part-timer.  His numbers even against righties have slipped in recent years, so there are better options out there if you're looking for players with pronounced splits as streaming options.

Trumbo: Despite 29 homers and a second-place finish in the AL Rookie Of The Year balloting, there isn't a great sense that Trumbo is a big part of the Angels' future. Trumbo's power was countered by his .254 average and a disturbingly low .291 OBP -- getting on base has been issue for Trumbo throughout his career, as he carries a career .330 OBP in the minor leagues.  This said, Trumbo is just 26 years old and is theoretically entering his prime, so the Angels are committed to seeing if his overall batting skills develop into something special. Even if he doesn't, there are worse fates for a player than following the Mark Reynolds career path.

Reynolds could become an even closer comparable to Trumbo since the Angels will be working Trumbo out at third base during Spring Training in an attempt to find him a regular spot in the lineup.  Trumbo would displace regular third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who should still find some playing time against left-handed pitching (Callaspo is a switch-hitter, Trumbo is right-handed) and spelling Trumbo as a defensive replacement. 

Third-base eligibility would give Trumbo a big fantasy boost, as third basemen with 29-homer potential are hard to come by.  If he proves he can handle the job during Spring Training, he is definitely worth a pick during the later rounds of your fantasy draft.  There is risk attached to a Trumbo pick, however, as he'll provide virtually no fantasy value if his power wanes. Also, if he can't handle third base, it leaves Trumbo as a part-time DH at best and greatly limit his value.

Morales: Here's the big x-factor. Morales suffered one of the most infamous injuries in recent baseball history on May 29, 2010, when he fractured his lower left leg leaping onto home plate after a walkoff grand slam.  Two surgeries later, Morales may finally be ready to return, but the Angels will treat him with kid gloves. In other words, don't dream that Morales will be healthy enough to take over from Wells in left field since it'd be a surprise if the Angels play him anywhere other than the DH spot this season.

Even if Morales is fit, you can't expect him to regain his 2009 form after missing essentially two years of action. Morales was hitting .290/.346/.487 before he went down in 2010, and optimistically, that's probably his ceiling if he can stay healthy in 2012. An .833 OPS is nothing to sneeze at, but again, that represents a best-case scenario for Morales, who might not be ready for Opening Day.  I'd expect Los Angeles to bring Morales along slowly, keeping him in a DH platoon until he proves he's healthy enough to handle more playing time. It all adds up to a classic "draft him in the last or second-last round" scenario, and in most leagues, I'd guess Morales to last that long given the sheer uncertainty about his injury situation.

Fantasy outlook: It's easy to foresee a scenario where Morales isn't healthy, Abreu continues his decline and Trumbo fails to develop, turning the Angels' "logjam" at DH into an even more pressing problem of having nobody to fill the spot. It's also worth citing the names of Wells, Torii Hunter and super-prospect Mike Trout in the conversation.  If none of Abreu/Trumbo/Morales working out, you could see Hunter or Wells added to the DH mix, creating an everyday job for Trout in the outfield. 

For now, however, we'll save Mike Scioscia some lineup juggling and presume that it will indeed be some combination of Abreu, Trumbo and/or Morales rotating as the designated hitter. Trumbo's possible third base eligibility gives him the most fantasy value of the three players, with Morales' potential making him the second-best choice and Abreu's decline putting him in back.  Given the number of question marks surrounding all three players, LAA general manager Jerry Dipoto may want to hold off on trades until he sees which (if any) of his DH candidates will perform in 2012. In fact, if it turns out Morales can't play, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Halos sign someone like a Damon or a Guerrero late in Spring Training to help fill the void.





Site Map     Contact     About     Advertise     Privacy Policy     MLB Trade Rumors     Rss Feed